Two New Coaches Making Big Impact in Different Ways
By: Larry Burton
There’s an old saying that goes, “It doesn’t matter how you get your point across, as long as people accept it and remember it.” That in a nut shell, sums up two of Alabama’s newest position coaches, outside linebacker coach Tosh Lupoi and defensive back coach Mel Tucker.
By now, everyone knows the man behind the booming voice you hear in every workout session, that of strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran. His energy level and enthusiasm is legendary and the players all love him dearly or love to hate him at times for his in your face comments like, “Quit on me now and you’ll quit in the fourth quarter!”
In some ways, that describes new inside linebacker coach Tosh Lupoi, who could be Cochran’s brother from another mother. He’s a player’s coach, young, bouncing around, the Energizer bunny of coaches with a knack for yelling. But it works, at least with the players he’s coaching who have all responded to him and like his aggressive approach.
Junior defensive end Jonathan Allen told Rivals, “We love him as a coach. He’s a definitely a players coach. Players love playing for him. He loves coaching us. It’s a great mesh between us. We love it. He can definitely relate to us. He has first-hand experience so he understands some of our questions. He’s really good with the players. We love him. We really do. We like playing for him. He’s a fired up guy and that’s what we enjoy.”
Lupoi is 33 years old, still young enough to get in there and be a real “hands on” kind of coach. He himself was a defensive lineman for Cal from 2000 to 2005 and led the Bear’s defensive in tackles for one of those years while also gaining PAC 10 All Academic honors. He went on to be the youngest full time coach in Cal history after earning his degree. His time there was both on the defensive line and linebacker coaching spots. For the five years he was there, 2008 to 2013, his defense was a PAC 12 leading defense in 2011 and he was also named one of the top recruiters in the country.
Last season he came to Alabama and served as a defensive analyst before getting back on the field this season.
On the other end of the spectrum, at least as far as boisterous yelling, comes the Tide’s other new coach, Mel Tucker. His approach is more put his arm around you and talk quietly to you about how you can improve rather than yelling and making gestures with his arms and hands.
That approach is working just as well with a bunch of very inexperienced but talented defensive backs who almost need a “father figure” to mentor them, and that is just what Tucker is providing.
At the age of 43, the age of most of these players fathers, Tucker brings not only real world experience, he played at the college level for the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big 10 at defensive back, but he brings years of college and pro football experience to the table as well and players know he knows what he’s talking about.
Tucker’s coaching career started under a young head coach named Nick Saban when he was still at Michigan State. He impressed Saban then and when Saban left Michigan State, he never forgot the coach that did him such a good job, even at such an early age and took him with him to LSU. But Tucker was lured away to Ohio State where he eventually became the co-defensive coordinator under Jim Tressel. In 2005 he left for the NFL where he remained until being hired by Saban to come to Alabama and help mentor and guide his group of young inexperienced defensive backs.
Last season, Saban was disappointed with the number of deep balls being completed against his defense and he knew his group needed “coaching up” by a man who could bring results and that is exactly why Tucker is here. The two actually go even further back than most know. When Saban was a head coach at Toledo, he actually recruited Tucker to come and play football for him. Even while in high school, Saban could see that Tucker had great instincts for what makes a defensive back great. Now they are re-united once again and this could actually be the best recruiting job Saban will have accomplished this year.
Given the fact that departed linebacker coach Lance Thompson has moved on after last season, a good recruiter but a lousy position coach and that now Saban has an experienced full time defensive backs coach that he didn’t have last season, the building blocks are there for a much better and team overall. Both these men are two great great off season pick ups and they couldn’t have come at a better time for a defense with a lot of young inexperienced talent that need strong coaching.
Look for Alabama’s defense to step forward this season because of it.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter
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